During the application filed by green card holders or U.S. citizen parents for unmarried children, children should not get married. And here’s why.
Why does marriage play such a big role in how USCIS’ gives out green cards every year? Put simply, it all comes down to the number of green cards they can give out each year.
When most children come to the U.S. with parents looking to immigrate, these children are classified as “immediate relatives”. In this category of beneficiaries, USCIS is allotted an unlimited number of green cards. The logic behind this is most likely because the United States government wants to keep families together. In other words, the system is set in place where parents who are given green cards will automatically receive additional green cards for their children classified as “immediate relatives”.
Then what happens when children under 21 years old marry before their green cards are approved?
When children (under the age of 21) seeking to immigrate to the U.S. marry before their green card are approved, they are subsequently put in the “family third preference visa category”. In other words, these children will lose their classification as “immediate relatives (where there are unlimited green cards allocated) and be categorized as a “family third” where there are only 23,400 visas available each year.
23,400 visas a year may sound like a lot, but the finite quota makes your chances of getting approved much more difficult. In addition, people have to consider the fact that around 1.1 million people legally immigrate to the U.S. every year. The sheer number of people looking immigrate makes the 23,400 visas allocated much more scarce and harder to get approved.
Besides decreasing your chances of getting a green card, marriage will inevitably slow down the process of obtaining one. For example, a child of parents looking to immigrate will by default, be eligible for his or her green card when the parents’ petitions are approved. However, if the child marries before the green cards are approved, the child will automatically be put in a different category.
These other categories (Family Second/Third Preference) all have finite numbers of visas available each year. Additionally, these petitions will take much longer to get approvals, with instances taking as long as 10 years! It goes back to the number of applicants each year, and the numbers of green cards available. These consular officers will have to evaluate each applicant in detail to make sure each applicant is a good fit.
When comparing the two alternatives, where an unmarried child is automatically eligible for a green card once the parent’s petitions are approved and where a married child will have to wait years to get the same approval, the difference is clear.
For those considering a concealed marriage, USCIS has made it very clear that committing fraud in order to get a visa is not tolerated.
USCIS has recorded instances of families that plan to have their children marry after their visa interviews with consular officers but before they enter the United States. In those instances where they will inevitably file more information, USCIS conducts a thorough and full review of the individual’s file. These thorough reviews and interviews will look for any irregularities in the individual’s story.
According to the USCIS, concealing marriages in the process of obtaining green cards is a fraud, punishable by immediate deportation.
For those who have claimed a green card as an unmarried child despite having been married before, it is advised to see an experienced immigration lawyer. First impressions are the most important. If you plan on immigrating to the U.S., it is highly advised that you seek an attorney before beginning the process.
This is an immigration legal blog. It is not intended to be used as legal advice.
For further information please contact the law offices of attorney Ramona Kennedy.
Ms. Ramona Kennedy received her Jurisprudence Doctorate in America and is a licensed attorney in California (USA). Ramona Kennedy is a member of American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).
She is licensed to practice in the United States Supreme Court, US Immigration Courts, California Federal Courts of Southern & Central District & All California Courts. Ramona Kennedy is fluent in English and Farsi (reading & writing).
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